At the beginning of your EDM journey, when the cajoling beats and addictive noises first take hold, you find yourself on a musical rollercoaster that you never wanna get off. This time in your life is undeniably exciting, unforgettable, and lastly, overwhelming. Once you’ve accepted the fact that this music is a huge part of your life now, and that you’ll do whatever it takes to be in front of a stage that’s bumpin’ these beats, the next step is to figure out what genres you like. This is important, so you can hone in on them and prioritize them.
Whenever you see that vast festival lineup and are unsure which sets you wanna make it to, you can rely on your knowledge of genres to take you exactly where you want to go for the most personalized, enjoyable experience possible. Festival tickets are expensive, and the last thing you wanna do is waste your time aimlessly wandering from stage to stage, unsure of which stage is your home for certain sets. Luckily for you, I’ve put together a genre guide to help you get to where you need to be!
I’ve included an artist and song for each sub-genre so you can get a feel for each. While I personally believe they sum up the genre well, there are thousands of other songs and artists out there that can be classified under each genre, so let this list be your guide, but don’t let it limit you to checking out other electronic dance music.
• Progressive: Zedd- Ignite
• Big Room: Knife Party- P.L.U.R. Police
• Electro: Zomboy- Vancouver Beatdown, KSHMR & Dallas K- Burn, Borgore & Sikdope- Unicorn Zombie Apocalypse
• Bounce: Uberjakd- Noises (VIP)
• Tech: Fisher- Ya Didn’t
• G: Dr. Fresch- Gangsta Gangsta
• Tropical: Kygo & Starix- Paradise
• Moombahton: Knife Party- Sleaze
Ahh, glorious house music, with that satisfying “untz untz untz untz” bassline originating in Chicago in the 1980s and making its way into the mainstream more recently. As house music gained momentum, it picked up some tantalizing sub-genres, like electro house, everybody’s favorite main stage music. Electro house is known for its kick drum bassline and intense noises that keep the main stage crowd moving all night. Many people blow it off as “basic” because it’s played at main stage, but I encourage you to take a second look.
Big room is very similar to electro, and is criticized even more for having that “stereotypical EDM sound” with the long lead ups to heavy drops and meaningless vocals. Knife Party jokingly created their own Big Room song to throw shade at producers who make “typical mainstream EDM” to stay relevant. (The kicker is, Knife Party’s version of big room is actually good).
Tech house is characterized by its blend of the minimal elements of techno and the groovy, soulful elements of house. The subtlety of this sub-genre is appreciated by fans, as they tend to find intricacy in it, and often believe “less is more”. Tech house has gained a lot of traction recently, so give it a listen and I promise you’ll keep going back for more.
G house mixes dark trap sounds and lyrics with the comforting bassline of house music, resulting in that “gangsta” feeling.
If you’re looking for something to play at the beach or at a pool party, tropical house should be your go-to. With its 4/4 bassline pattern and prominent, uplifting and tropical overlay, this sub-genre of deep house is great with a side of coconut rum.
Moombahton is an interesting style of EDM that combines the clubby aspect of music with a 108 bpm bassline resulting in a sort of “anthem” sounding sub-genre. Moombahton is frequently played at festivals due to this fact. Many times reggaeton sounds are incorporated into this subgenre, and sometimes even trap sounds.
Progressive house is what a lot of people think of when they think of EDM, a very mainstream form of house music with some main stage hype and a lot of times vocals. This trance infused sub-genre is typically played at main stage, and thought of as “feel good music”.
House fans: Either fully decked out in holographic neon hitting you in the head with their inflatable alien (progressive, electro, big room, bounce, moombah), or extremely laid back and knowledgeable about music (tech, tropical). Probably shuffling.
Detroit, Michigan brought us techno music in the 1980s, and its repetitive tempo is now appreciated worldwide. Its 120-150 bpm mixed with percussive undertones and hi-hat noise every second eighth note is highly respected by fans of all ages.
Minimal techno is the same thing, but stripped down to a more fundamental form, described by Robert Hood, one of the founders of minimal techno, as “only what is essential to make people move”. For most, techno is an acquired taste, one that only comes after you’ve discovered and appreciated most other genres of EDM, and are ready for something more sophisticated.
Techno fans: Wear mostly black, think they’re better than you. Are better than you.
Trance is an extremely popular genre of electronic dance music, and artists like Armin Van Buurin and Tiësto have blown it out of the water with their ingeniously curated sounds. Above & Beyond takes the cake when it comes to vocal trance, which combines the continuous lengthy build up and release of the beat with soft and effervescent vocals to truly encapsulate listeners in a “trance”.
Progressive trance is a bit more subtle than trance, as are the breakdowns after the long build up. DJ Arty’s other alias Alpha 9 has really taken over this sub-genre and made it something quite special.
Psytrance is a play on “psychedelic trance”, and psychedelic it is. The dark, pounding bassline of psytrance emulate throughout longer than usual songs, usually switching up the rhythm and beat every eight bars. This unique sound has listeners feeling like they are trapped by the bass, in a good way.
Trance fans: Either holding hands and crying their eyes out to a festival screen that’s ensuring them “they are beautiful” (vocal, progressive) or looking like Ozzy Osbourne just went off the rails on a crazy train (psytrance).
• Barely Alive- Deadlink
• Zomboy- Here to Stay (Must Die Remix)
• Doctor P- Sweet Shop
• Borgore- Body & Soul
• Brostep: Zomboy- Nuclear
• Riddim: Midnight Tyrannosaurus- Waluigi
• Melodic: Steven Swartz- Bullet Train
Dubstep, the electronic version of heavy metal has overtaken the scene with its two-step bassline sounding like “bom-chhh, bom-chhh, bom-chhh, bom-chhh” and heavy, dark sounding noises with the occasional high pitch. While at first dubstep can seem like something out of a horror movie, it’s classical undertones appeal to a very large crowd. While dubstep has evolved massively in the past two years (into something unrecognizably terrible in my opinion), I thrived during 2013 when real dubstep was kept alive by heavy hitters like Doctor P, Skrillex, and Knife Party.
Brostep was mastered by the likes of Skrillex and Zomboy around 2012, and is recognized as a more aggressive, “in your face” version of dubstep. This sub-genre displays many noises that remind me of an electric guitar. The term “brostep” started as a joke to describe Americanized, “macho” dubstep, but this sub-genre grew into something that is definitely not a joke. Listen closely and the intricacy will blow your mind. Many people refer to the “wobble” like bassline of dubstep, which is created using low frequency distortion resulting in that “wub” noise. Be careful not to hurt your neck as you throw it backwards and foreword as soon as you hear this unprecedented bassline.
Melodic dubstep is for fans who enjoy the two-step bassline with a more relaxing, chill, and pretty feel. Melodic dubstep is usually characterized using vocals, a sub-genre that Adventure Club took ahold of and revolutionized.
Riddim made its way back into the scene recently, and is understood to be a minimal sub-genre of dubstep, with focus on its constant tone and repetitive nature.
Dubstep fans: Come in large packs, were probably a scene kid in middle school, express their anger towards their step dad Jim by repeatedly throwing their necks back and forth, publicly disappoint their mothers, and create mosh pits.
• Drum & Bass: Sub Focus- Tidal Wave
• Bass House: Dr. Fresch- The Hood
• Weird: No Mana- Clear (REZZ Remix)
• Future: Hermitude- Hyperparadise (Flume Remix)
• Electro Funk: The Floozies- Stuntin’
Drum & Bass has a bassline that sounds similar to the two-step of dubstep, but much faster. This sub-bass focused sub-genre will get away from you if you’re not on your toes, as the kick
drum is very quick, but pair it with vocals and high pitched noises and it makes for a very
pleasurable musical experience. This UK popular sub-genre originated in the early 1990s, and
has been making its way to the US, even taking over its own stages here.
It’s hard not to love the dubstep/house collaboration called bass house. This sub-genre takes house music to a place it hasn’t been before with its grimy, warehouse sampled sounds like
those of dubstep. Bass house has become very popular, and can be heard at many festivals, as
it seems to draw crowds of fans of both house music and dubstep.
Weird, “space”, or experimental bass has come to fruition and revived the bass music genre for the better. It’s unpredictable basslines and noises have rejuvenated the bass scene and added
some funk. Weird bass boasts a heavy hitting tempo with excessively trippy and “other worldly”
noises to compliment. Bassnectar has ingeniously held this genre on his shoulders for a long
time, and has a massive fan base to prove it.
Future bass is a very easy-going and popular sub-genre to listen to. Because of its factors involving trap sounds, “heavenly” sounding rises in pitch, and mainstream vocals, future bass is
something you could show to your mom and she would most likely bob her head to it.
For the groovier music fans who may enjoy the use of actual instruments (who woulda
thought?!?!) incorporated with electronic music, electro-funk is the sub-genre for you. This rhythmic form of music hits you deep in the heart with its uplifting saxophone and guitar
sounds infused with funky hip-hop and electronic noises.
Bass fans: Wear spoons around their necks in case they get hungry mid-set, probably dropped their crystal at their 379th Bassnectar show and found it again at the next one, questionably able to make it to every single show without a steady source of income (weird bass). Marshmello helmet that’s on backwards, came for the “vibes” (future bass).
Trap music is recognized by hip-hop sounds and 808 bass. Many people who originally favor rap and hip hop find their way into the EDM scene through trap music. Many EDM artists collaborate with rap artists who create vocals for their songs.
Glitch hop is of the “weirder” variety when it comes to trap music. Using classic hip hop sounds and integrating glitchy noises over the 110 bmp bassline, glitch hop artists have created a whole new animal in the realm of EDM.
Trap fans: Say “your mom” jokes on multiple occasions, have questionably big muscles, probably sweating profusely and wearing a graphic t.
• Hardstyle: Showtek- The Colour of the Harder Style
• Hard Trance: Cosmic Gate- The Drums
• UK Hardcore: Darren Styles- Us Against the World
• Gabber: Dyprax & Angerfist- The Pearly Gates
Hardstyle and hard trance are not for the weak of heart, as its profound thumping kick drum bassline reverberates out of (usually) main stage. Originating in the Netherlands, hardstyle is very much still revered over the pond, with evidence in Defqon.1, an all hardstyle festival in the Netherlands. I encourage you to listen to many different hardstyle songs until you find one you like, for it can be an acquired taste. Hardstyle is for those looking for hardcore electronic dance music.
Hard dance fans: Probably foreign. Nah, they’re definitely foreign.
Featured photo by: EDC
SPECIAL THANKS TO: my brother Evan, who I call the bass professor, for teaching me EVERYTHING I know about electronic music and making this article possible. Thank you for being there for me in the beginning of this journey, and now when I texted you 60 times asking for the best electro songs. Love you!